By Marcelle Mansour OAM
In the presence of the Palestinian Ambassador H. E. Izzat Abdulhadi, Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine held its first Inaugural Fundraising Dinner for the Gaza Surf Project, on Monday 14 August 2017 at Old City Kitchen & Bar Newtown, and was organised with affiliation with the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP), other advocacy groups and members of the Australian Palestinian Community.
The event was attended by members and groups of Palestine supporters; included The Hon Lynda Voltz MLC- Shadow Minister for Sport and Veterans Affairs, Associate Professor Jake Lynch from Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies the University of Sydney, Jennifer Killen – Coordinator of Friends of Hebron, Cathy Peters from Sydney University and Sonja Sedmak- Coordinator of the Coalition for Justice and Peace, Dr Jamal Rifi AM, Eddie Zananiri -. Spokesperson of The Australian Palestinian Community and a strong advocate for Palestinian rights, Abdul Kader Karanouh – Secretary General of Fatah in Australia, Jamil Batshoun- President of the Australian Palestinian Club together with Michael Barjel and Henry Wahhab, Hilmi Dabbagh, President of Australian Palestinian Professionals Association, Marwan Akramawi from The General Union of Palestinian Workers, Issa Shaweesh – Treasurer of Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), Dr Emad Berro and Shawki Moslemani from the Australian Arabic Cultural Centre, Shamikh Badra. Amir Salim from Australia Arab Council, Dr. George Hatoum, Derek Halawa, Hassan Mourtada, Abdul Majeed Hijazi, Farouk and Nisreen Motawi, Rezik and Salwa Husary.
Ms. Sonja Sedmak MCed the event, speakers were H. E. Izzat Abdulhadi, the Ambassador of Palestine, Mr. Shamikh Badra, and Mr. Hilmi Dabbagh.
In his speech H. E. Izzat Abdulhadi, the ambassador highlighted the importance of Gaza Surf Project as a community development project, for it aims to send life-saving equipment including surfboards to Gaza, and to bring out two young people from Gaza to learn surfing and then set up a Nippers programme in Gaza based on the Australian Surf Life Saving. the ambassador spoke about the unjust Israeli occupation in Palestine the necessity of urgent reconciliation in achieving the conflict resolution.
Shamikh Badra said he was aware of the miserable situation in Gaza for he was born and lived there most of his life, he spoke of the Israeli blockade in Gaza Strip for more than 10 years including offensives and aggressions since 2006 where civilians were killed. The United Nations report shows that Gaza may already be unlivable with the weak infrastructure has contributed to the current humanitarian crisis with mass poverty, high unemployment, shortage of electricity and water, inadequate health care. Gaza has very little entertainment facilities such as cinema, theatre, or sports and therefore “Gaza Surfing Project” is a significant initiative. Samikh added that Gaza will remain steadfast and will live and will not die despite Rabin’s wishes to see her sunk in the sea in 1992.
Hilmi Dabbagh stated that it was in June 2016, when the former Premier Mike Baird agreed to support an initiative of the Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine, to send surfboards to war-torn Gaza, and to develop a Nippers program for the children of Gaza. History proves that Surfing in Gaza is not new occurrence; for there is, in reality, a 75-year-old connection between Sydney’s northern beaches and Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline that goes back to early 1940s when the Australian members of 6th Division were stationed in Gaza, under General Thomas Blamey’s command who were component to the Allied Defence against Nazi Germany’s push from North Africa. At that time hundreds of Anzacs were encamped near Gaza beach for training where they demonstrated the art of body surfing to local Palestinians and held a big surf carnival with General and Lady Blamey as guests of honour.
Today there is very little entertainment in Gaza –.remembering the Australian connection – young Gazans have asked to benefit from the experience of the Australian popular sport of life-saving, This initiative will send a message of hope for people who live in despair. It is in this spirit that Premier Baird agreed with a delegation from the Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine that sending surfboards to the people of Gaza, and developing a Nippers program there, would be a welcome gesture for hope and peace.
Then Jamil Batshoun gave an enthusiastic ward to encourage the audience to be generous in raising funds. The event concluded successfully with the ambassador thanked the advocacy groups organizers for their solidarity and steady support to the Palestinian cause and he also thanked the Husary family for providing a great dinner that was inspired by the tastes of Jerusalem.